Disability World
A bimonthly web-zine of international disability news and views • Issue no. 8 May-June 2001

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Disability And Inclusive Education

A Paper prepared for the InterAmerican Development Bank Seminar on Inclusion and Disability Santiago, Chile, March 16, 2001
By Gordon Porter, Ph.D., a Canadian educator who is President of Inclusion InterAmericana
"It is evident that there is a strong international trend towards developing education systems to become more inclusive. . . . The transformative inclusion agenda is based on the assertion of the same right to a quality education within their communities for all learners. Thus it can be seen to concur with the task of Education for All." --(UNESCO, 1999, p. 21)
Executive Summary
Educating children with disabilities is a modern-day challenge for the people of the Americas. Only a small proportion (e.g. from 1% - to- 10%) of the children with special needs have ready access to schooling, and those who do typically must attend a segregated school. Almost none of these children now have the opportunity to attend a regular community school with their non-disabled peers. In non-urban areas the situation is even worse

In practical terms, establishing more segregated schools is not feasible for most countries in the region. It is also undesirable, from an educational standpoint. Money is better spent strengthening the capacity of community schools to handle children with diverse needs. There is growing evidence that children with disabilities learn better when they are allowed to go to a public school within their neighborhood. Often, it is also the only realistic opportunity they will have to receive an education.

Inclusive educational practices are being endorsed internationally. The UNESCO sponsored 'Education For All' initiative, states that all children, including those with disabilities and other special needs, are entitled to equity of educational opportunity. UNESCO and the OECD have also determined that inclusion is the preferred approach to providing schooling for students with special needs. It is widely accepted that the conditions required to allow for successful inclusion are also those that contribute to overall school improvement and high levels of achievement for all children.

As a result, inclusive education has received more attention throughout the region in the last few years. There is movement toward more inclusive schooling in almost every country. Examples of good practice exist, but the models need to be strengthened and made more systemic. The time is right for key stakeholders to invest in programs and initiatives that will help make schooling in home communities possible for all children.

Examples exist that illustrate the difficulties students with disabilities can encounter when their families seek to include them in the regular education system of most countries in the region. But, there are other known cases that give evidence to the opportunities that exist if parent-based groups and ministries work in partnership to nurture new approaches and new models.

There are a number of initiatives that experts have identified as supportive of the move toward inclusion. Some of the more crucial ones involve:
  • establishing pilot projects in individual schools or clusters of schools incorporating 'best practices and developing local strategies;
  • training a cadre of teachers and school principals so they, in turn, can train others;
  • paying teachers sufficiently so they can focus on teaching and be held accountable for student success;
  • providing teachers with training in classroom strategies so they can accommodate children with diverse learning needs in regular classes;
  • staffing schools with support teachers to provide collaborative help to classroom teachers;
  • developing information packages on "best practices" and disseminating the knowledge;
  • creating education institutions that prepare new teachers for inclusion;
  • forming partnerships between schools, parent groups, NGOs, and government and professional groups in the promotion of inclusion in schools and the community.
Education systems that exist for all children can be created with adequate funding targeted at community schools. Segregation and exclusion has failed. Inclusion and the good educational practice that comes with it offers hope to a region that needs to ensure educational equity and participation by all.

The provision of education is a challenge for all countries. Establishing and maintaining a quality educational system requires not only well-trained and motivated teachers and administrators, but also large infusions of money to keep the system up-to-date and relevant with rapidly changing societies and economies. The emergence of the global economy has made the need for quality and effectiveness even more essential. As a result, education programs and policies now rank high on government agendas. For these policies to be effective they need to be directed to the estimated 85,000,000 citizens in the region who have disabilities. Their low rate of participation in the work force can be directly connected to their exclusion from the education system. The resulting poverty and status of dependence of persons with disabilities represents a significant squandering of human potential. It also unnecessarily causes persons with disabilities to live lives of neglect, isolation and despair (CACL, 1997).

This paper focuses on a critical element of the education challenge: the effort to achieve equity for students with disabilities. These students have traditionally fared poorly in the established educational system. While there is a record of achievement during the last few decades when it comes to teaching children with special educational needs, it is tempered by the segregated settings in which it is carried out and the small proportion of those who qualify who participate. Progress toward full coverage and quality of service has been slow.

Overall, however, the concept of "access-to- education" has evolved from a mere privilege to a right for all, and expectations have been raised. A commitment to universal education is now interpreted as requiring attention to all children, including those with disabilities and other special educational needs.

The "Salamanca Statement" set forth the challenge to provide public education to " . . . all children, regardless of their physical, intellectual, emotional, social, linguistic or other conditions." Not only was this commitment made, the provision of this service was to be in "ordinary schools". Two sections of the statement endorsed by 300 participants representing 92 countries and 25 international organizations in 1994 are notable:
'Regular schools with this inclusive orientation are the most effective means of combating discriminatory attitudes, creating welcoming communities, building an inclusive society and achieving educational for all . . ." --(Article 2, Salamanca Statement)
'Educational policies at all levels . . . should stipulate that children with disabilities should attend their neighborhood school that is the school that would be attended if the child did not have a disability' . --(Article 18, Salamanca Statement)
At the subsequent 28th Session of the UNESCO General Conference (28C Resolution 1.5), member countries were called on to " . . . follow up on the recommendations of the Salamanca World Conference on Special Needs Education and to reorient their educational strategies to meet special educational needs within the mainstream, as well as work toward inclusive education."

In 1999 the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) completed an extensive study of special education practice in eight member countries. The OECD report concludes that on the basis of the results of this study (OECD, 1999):
" . . . there is no reason to segregate disabled students in public education systems; instead education systems need to be reconsidered to meet the education needs of all students. "The most detailed international study ever carried out, . . . (the study) . . . shows that all students, whatever the type and extent of their disability, can be successfully included in mainstream schools, as long as certain safeguards are ensured."
Support for these principles can be found in the region itself as well. Nearly a decade ago, one hundred and fifty representatives from 34 countries in the Americas met in Nicaragua to develop a framework for promoting the rights of persons with a disability. They included persons with a disability, their families, professionals and government representatives. Together, they developed and endorsed the Declaration of Managua, signed December 3, 1993. The Declaration of Managua states:
"To ensure social well-being for all people, societies have to be based on justice, equality, equity, inclusion and interdependence, and recognize and accept diversity. Societies must also consider their members, above all, as persons, and assure their dignity, rights, self-determination, full access to social resources and the opportunity to contribute to community life (CACL, 1993)."
Subsequently, the General Assembly of the Organization of American States (O.A.S.), passed the "Inter-American Convention On The Elimination Of All Forms Of Discrimination Against Persons With Disabilities." This action was based on the fact that disability continues to be a significant obstacle to full participation in the social, cultural, economic and educational life of the region. The Convention declares that " . . . it is necessary therefore to encourage actions and measures to bring about a substantial improvement in the situation of persons with disabilities in the Hemisphere . . .".

This paper explores the question of disability and inclusive education in the Latin American and Caribbean region. We will examine three dimensions of the question:
  • providing education to students with diverse needs, including those with disabilities, and the challenge of special education;
  • obstacles and opportunities involved in creating inclusive schools;
  • and, strategies for action that hold promise in the Region.
As well, two case examples that illustrate the difficulties and challenges of the status quo are presented, one from a Caribbean nation, the other from a South American country. Case examples from Jamaica and Brazil are presented as positive examples of new initiatives toward inclusion that provide insight on how partnerships between government and community groups can forged. All four case examples provide a context for analyzing the issues and help point the way ahead.

1. The Current Situation
1.1 Background

Even conservative estimates on the number of children in Latin America and the Caribbean with disabilities are large, and only a small number have access to school and other support agencies that promote growth and development. UNICEF estimates 11.6 per cent of children in Central America have a disability. Other studies advance higher projections for the region, including a study prepared by the Canadian Association for Community Living for the Inter-American Development Bank. The study, entitled "Integration of Persons with Disabilities into the Productive Workforce," places the percentage of children with a disability at 18 per cent (CACL, 1997).

Using even the lower-range estimates, a simple demographic projection confirms there are millions of children with disabilities in the Americas. Unfortunately, only a small fraction gets the educational attention to which, as citizens, they are entitled. In a December 2000 document, the Canadian International Development Agency (CIDA) notes:
"The World Health Organization (WHO) estimates that only five per cent of disabled children in developing countries have access to supports or services of any kind, and that less than two per cent attend school. Physical and attitudinal barriers often prevent families and communities from providing these children with the same opportunities that non-disabled children have (CIDA, 2000)."
This is due mainly to the fact that the educational systems in the region do not have the capacity or the practices that would allow them to adequately meet the educational needs of this large population of children. It must also be noted that children with disabilities are over-represented in low-income families, even in developed countries such as Canada.

It must also be recognized, however, one of the most serious obstacles to progress in the region is the absence of reliable and consistent data on educational efforts and educational outcomes. McMeekin (1998) has outlined this problem and observes: " (T)here is not, however, a body of agreed-upon knowledge about what constitutes a good education statistics system.'' He acknowledges that progress is being made, with some countries making significant gains, particularly larger and more sophisticated countries such as Brazil, Argentina, Chile and Mexico. At the same time, however, many poor countries are "lagging badly." Countries that are considered "in-between" are making progress, but continue to have major problems.

Having poor educational statistics means that it is difficult to get an accurate account of the facts. It makes the job of identifying problems and solutions almost impossible. Both UNESCO and the OECD are developing systems of indicators that may be of use, but the work is still a long way from being usable. In short, we are operating in the dark when it comes to education facts and outcomes generally. If anything, information about special education is even more difficult to come by.

What we do know is failure to ensure that children with special needs receive effective educational services results in their exclusion from the labor market and other forms of marginalization and dependency. It even contributes to poor health later in life. In a recent planning document, CIDA states:
"Quality basic education is a fundamental human right. However, many continue to be denied this right and the opportunity to enjoy its many benefits: better health, reduced fertility, higher productivity, increased family income, and the chance to live and work in dignity and make informed decisions about one's life (CIDA, 2000 B)."
Kisanji (1998) notes that in income-poor nations, "people who are currently being marginalized by education policies and practices, such as those with special needs, are likely to remain excluded from schooling for the foreseeable future unless radical reforms in the structure of education systems are contemplated and implemented."

1.2 Segregation
The education system for students with disabilities in Latin America and the Caribbean is primarily based on special schools. This is true in all parts of the region -- large and more developed countries, as well as the smaller and less developed countries. The availability of special schools is limited, so much so that it represents a serious moral question.

For example, in Nicaragua, in accordance with data published in 1999 by UNDP, the population with special educational needs amounted to 150,000 children. Their system could only accommodate 3,600 or 2.4 per cent, meaning the needs of 97.6 per cent of children with special needs could not be met.

In Chile, Milicic and Sius (1995) report that " . . . traditionally, regular Chilean schools have marginalized children with special education needs (p. 169)." They further note that special education has been " . . . oriented toward children whose disabilities are mild or moderate, ignoring children with more severe disabilities. (Further) . . . most special education schools specialize in one type of disability, and very few receive children with multiple disabilities (p.172)." They also report that Chile has not achieved a high degree of coverage, with approximately 300 special schools serving about 30,000 students. Disability projections indicate this is just a third of the number of children who need the service (p.172).

In El Salvador, according to data gathered by Inclusion InterAmericana in September 2000, the number of school-age youths with disabilities was 222,000. Two thousand of these students attend courses at special schools, totaling 30 throughout the country. This means less than one per cent attend a special school or any school, for that matter.

In Jamaica, children with "moderate to profound levels of retardation" are sent to schools operated with government funding by the Jamaica Association for Persons with Mental Retardation (JAPMR). Children with "mild retardation" are the mandate of the regular public school. Founded in 1956, the private and segregated "School of Hope" (SOH) program has 29 units spread throughout the country. They serve a total of 1,250 students. The association estimates that between 3,000 and 4,000 children are actually qualified for their programs (Duncan, 2001). The bottom line is that for every eligible child receiving service, two or three others who are eligible are not served.

1.3 Case Example from a South American Country
Modern states have taken responsibility for the education of all the children under its' jurisdiction. International rights conventions deny the right to discriminate. Yet, we have the case of Elsa, a mother from a town close to the national capital. Elsa has a son, Pedro, a 10-year-old boy with multiple disabilities. To date she has been unable to have Pedro enrolled in any kind of public education, neither regular schools nor special schools.

Elsa writes that she has been working with a small group of advisors and friends, that include educators and lawyers. They have were surprised to find that state laws exclude children with multiple disabilities from schools, even special schools. This is surprising since, like most modern jurisdictions, the state requires children to attend school between the ages of six years and 16. They found that while a number of different types of special school existed in the town (e.g. for children who are blind, deaf, moderate intellectual disability and behavior), a child with multiple disabilities could only apply for admission to two types of these schools and that state regulations govern who can or who cannot attend.

Special School # 1
There are schools for physically disabled students. Admission requirements state that students have average intelligence and only mild or moderate learning difficulties. In order to remain in the school, "Each student must show a degree of educability that bears witness to significant progress in the learning process (Personal Communication, 2000)."

Special School # 2
There are also schools for students with severe learning disabilities (SLD). One of the admission requirements is that the student has to have the diagnosis and prediction of educability suited to curriculum targets. To be able to stay at school, a student "must show progress in his learning process."

Elsa states there are no special schools for children with profound disabilities or for children with multiple disabilities -- a physical disability together with severe or profound mental disability. She reports that children who cannot go to school may be eligible for support from the social security system to attend day care centers for children and adolescents. She notes that these centers are outside the education system and "they do not have any educational objective."

Elsa and her support group have spent several years working on her problem. They have concluded that the division between "educable" and "non educable" children they have encountered is outrageous and completely unfair.
"Our purpose is to demand equal opportunities for education for every child to the State's Congressmen and the State's new Minister of Education. We already have the support of some local organizations for disabled people. We have received help from several lawyers working as volunteers to help us understand the legal analysis of the issues. We have also heard from Dr. Bengt Lindquist, [UN Rapporteur on Standard Rules] who indicated which international documents we had to use. So we consulted a local lawyer in our city who knows the ways of doing things in our country. He has told us where and whom we have to see to start these actions, and how we have to present the demands (Elsa, 2000)."
As of January 2001, Elsa had been waiting over a year for a meeting with the head of the education department of the province to discuss Pedro's exclusion from school. Inclusion in special schools run by the state is still not possible. For Elsa, inclusion in a regular class in a regular school for her son is indeed a dream.

In February 2001, Elsa decided to move ahead and found a "mainstream private school" willing to accept the challenge of teaching her son. Elsa reported that she was working with a small team of teachers, both special education and regular teachers, as well as the managers of the school to develop a suitable program for Pedro. She expressed concern that they make every provision for a successful experience since this is the first formal experience for both families and the educators (Personal Communication, 2001). The new school year begins in March 2001.

1.4 Urban-Rural Inequities
Country profiles do not always accurately reflect the reality of the entire nation. In fact the diversity educational provision, coverage and quality within a nation may be more diverse that that between nations. The urban-rural factor is one that is of significant concern in the region. The difference in educational provision between urban areas and the remote country towns and villages is a factor that must be accounted for in reform initiatives.

In a similar vein, Kochar and Gopal (1998) state that A . . .in many developing countries, the deleterious effects of inadequate or inappropriate education are compounded by disparities in the quality of education as one moves from richer to poorer municipalities, from industrial to agricultural areas, and from coastal to interior areas (Kochar & Gopal, 1998).@ Moreover, there seems to be a consistently higher rate of disability among adolescents and youth in rural areas (UNICEF, 1999).

In Jamaica, children who live outside major urban areas are less likely to receive service. While children from Kingston and St. Andrews parishes make up half of the SOH student population, their statistical portion within the population as a whole is approximately 25 per cent (JAPMR, 2001). This urban-rural disparity pattern is all too common in the region as a whole.

In Guyana, eight special education institutions operated in the country in 1996, and five were located in the capital city and its environs (IBE, Guyana--on-line). Further illustrating the inequity, O'Toole noted the capital city had 90 per cent of the provision in the special education area, but only 23 per cent of the population (O'Toole, 1995).

In Uruguay, the situation is no better. De Lorenzo observed: "All special services are located in urban and sub-urban areas, leaving the rural regions totally isolated from any kind of special service. Whether they are public or private, special education services operate only in urban centres, rendering rural areas devoid of the appropriate aid (de Lorenzo, 1995)."

1.5 Unmet Need
These examples demonstrate that the model of special education and special schools, first implemented in the developed countries, does not make an impact on children with special needs in most of the countries of the region. Despite their best intentions and careful planning, ministries of education have scarcely made a dent in the matter of universal coverage over recent decades, a period that included the United Nations' "Decade of the Disabled." Children with special educational needs are still last in line and the least likely to be served adequately, despite the rhetoric and promise of successive governments.

In addition, segregated education has entrenched a way of thinking that tends to perpetuate the segregation of people with disabilities throughout their life. Children who have been segregated at school tend to be kept separate as adults, through measures such as segregated work and recreation programs, and in segregated institutions including psychiatric hospitals and other inappropriate settings. Such arrangements are not consistent with the spirit of international declarations on human, economic and cultural rights, which are based on notions of full equality, inclusion and mutual respect. Most countries eventually discover that policies and programs which entrench segregation also perpetuate social isolation, loneliness and vulnerability with a wide-range of social harms. Arguably, the systematic separation of certain people from the mainstream of society, rips at the social fabric and dilutes the diversity of civil society as a whole.

UNESCO has clearly set forth on a path toward inclusive schools and this was conveyed through the Salamanca Statement, as well as more recent publications and initiatives. In the Salamanca Statement (1994), it is noted: "Those with special educational needs must have access to regular schools which should accommodate them with child centered pedagogy capable of meeting these needs (UNESCO, 1994)."

The Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) has also identified inclusive educational practices as a key ingredient in the general effort at educational reform. In a recent publication, the OECD points out: "The rights of students with disabilities to be educated in their local mainstream school is becoming more and more accepted in most countries, and many reforms are being put in place to achieve this goal. Further, there is no reason to segregate disabled students in public education systems. Instead, education systems need to be reconsidered to meet the needs of all students (OECD, 1999)."

Further, in a report delivered at the "Year 2000 Conference on Early Childhood Development," sponsored by the World Bank and held in Washington, D.C., in April 2000, J. Douglas Willms of the Canadian Research Institute for Social Policy said there are a number of factors that effect school success, notably early intervention when children are still in the formative stage of development. Additional factors conducive to inclusive education are: small-classes, well-trained teachers, no ability groupings, positive learning environments and strong parental involvement (Willms, 2000).

1.6 The special school model as policy
Application of the statistical information noted above provides a grim bottom-line for many, if not all, countries in the region. If countries were to proceed and try to achieve coverage sufficient for the entire population of students with special needs using the special schools model, the costs would be enormous. For example, in the case of El Salvador, there are now 30 schools serving approximately 2,000 students. To achieve full special-needs coverage on the same basis, approximately 3,300 special schools would have to be built and 23,000 special educators hired to join the 210 now employed. Unfortunately, the gap between provision and need is similar in most countries in the region.

Latin American and Caribbean countries are generally engaged in modernizing their educational systems. They are searching for quality, making technological improvements and attempting to extend coverage. Yet the special schools model is not compatible with the spirit, the goals or the vision of the educational reform process. On the contrary, it reinforces segregation and marginalization of people with disabilities. A small portion of the student population with special needs is forced to be taught within a model that isolates and segregates them. The majority receives no education at all. This produces a situation entirely at odds with the values of a truly democratic society. It is difficult to reconcile an education system based on exclusion and segregation with democratic economic and social goals. The education system needs to be a pillar of the democratization process.

To be left out of the education system entirely or to be segregated and isolated from peers, exacts a cost in lost knowledge and skill to the individual. The costs are clearly economic and effect income and standard of living. The cost of lost of relationships is harder to define, however, there is a human and relationship loss which effects people with disabilities throughout their lives, and one which spreads to families, peers, and the entire community.

Income-poor countries, like most of those in the region, have devoted resources to the development of a special education model. The model is far from complete, however, in terms of coverage and the range of services available. They are now faced with a decision that is crucial. Do they continue to invest in the special education model or do they seek a change in direction? As they move toward achieving the goals of the "Education For All'' (EFA) initiative, the advantages of developing an inclusive community-based school model is gaining increased attention. The result of this decision and the direction each county takes will effect the lives of many children and their families.

2. Inclusive education : an emerging alternative
"In numerous countries, the integration of students with special learning needs to mainstream education, has sparked a process of educational renewal that has greatly benefited the schooling system as a whole (Blanco, 1997)."
2.1 The Inclusion Option
Quite recently, inclusive education has appeared as the alternative approach to the challenge of provision with students with special needs. According to this model, students will be served in the regular public schools of the community. Students with special educational needs, including children with disabilities, will receive their education alongside their non-disabled peers. While this is considered an innovation, it is in fact true that in many cultural circumstances, it is also the traditional way to educate children. A Jamaican educator has observed that " . . . (H)istorically, we have always practiced the principles of inclusion in our educational system especially at the pre-school and primary levels (Duncan, 2001)."

Carro (1996) of the Universidad de Vallodolid stresses that ". . . the benefits of inclusion are two way (between students with special needs and their regularly able peers) but most of us have not experienced this yet. Segregation restricts our understanding of each other. Familiarity and tolerance reduce fear and rejection. Inclusive education contributes to a greater equality of opportunities for all members of society. The benefits also include relationships and creativity that were not possible in the past (Carro, 1996).

Jonsson (1995) supports and strengthens this argument. "Inclusive education services allow children with disabilities to stay with their family and go to the nearest school, just like all the other children. This circumstance is of vital importance to their personal development. Interrupting a disabled child's normal development may have far more severe consequences than the disability itself (Jonsson, 1995).

In countries where this model has been implemented, important progress has been made. It has been found that if implemented properly, inclusive school programs have the potential to:
  • be less expensive to implement and operate than special education services;
  • have a broader reach than traditional special education in terms of positive educational and social impacts on children;
  • contribute significantly to the ongoing professional development and job satisfaction of educators;
  • produce better morale and team effort in the school environment.
Obviously each country has its own conditions and characteristics, therefore there are no recipes for the development of a unique inclusive education model. When properly researched, described and disseminated, however, effective strategies and practices can always be adapted to enrich indigenous processes in meaningful ways. Most countries are adept at adopting what works and leaving behind what does not fit local circumstances.

A key challenge facing countries that have highly developed special education systems in their efforts to implement inclusive education, is the process of transitioning resources away from special education services. Difficulties inherent in this process are major deterrents to wider implementation of inclusive education. These difficulties, however, should not be overstated. With the right partners at the table, this transition process can be effectively managed. But, it does take time and it might require some additional investment. In countries with very limited spending on special education services, the challenge will be to generate new money to enhance the effort.

As is usually the case with innovative ideas, the thought of implementing the inclusive education model generates fear and resistance, mainly from special educators who wrongly view the proposal as a "menace" to their jobs. At the same time, many regular teachers doubt and resent the possibility of having children with special needs in their classrooms. They feel, for good reason, they are not prepared. The implementation of the model may also require a great deal of extra work for them.

In times of fiscal restraint, inclusive education services are politically and fiscally more sustainable than parallel systems of special education. It is politically more sustainable because the services are intended to benefit all students. The services are not perceived by taxpayers as an expensive "add on" which cater primarily to special interest lobbies in the disability sector. The services are fiscally sustainable because the goal of inclusive education is to achieve optimal pedagogical results for every public dollar invested in education. Overall such services cost a fraction of the amount required to maintain a dual and distinct network of regular schools and special education schools.

2.2 An Illustrative Story: Case Example from a Caribbean Country
On an Easter weekend several years ago, the national 'Association for the Mentally Retarded' held a four day seminar on "Disability, Human Rights and Community Living" in a retreat house far from the capitol city in the south east corner of the island. The seminar attracted up to 80 parents, teachers, social workers, officials and dignitaries for one or more days during the weekend. However, only a few individuals made it to all the sessions, morning and afternoon, Friday through Monday.

Two participants who did attend every session were a mother, Joyce and her son Thomas, a delightful youngster with a big smile and an engaging personality, who had both a physical disability and a learning disability. Joyce demonstrated significant resolve to get to the sessions despite significant barriers. Joyce and Thomas had to take three different buses to get from their home in the city to the retreat house and it took them just over one and a-half hours each way to do so. Joyce was a single mother raising Thomas, soon to turn six, as well as a younger daughter, three-year-old Willa, who stayed at home with Joyce's mother.

On Easter Sunday, the third day of the seminar, few attended the morning session. When the dozen or so persons there started to talk about some of the issues facing families, Joyce found herself in a small and safe setting, a setting where she felt comfortable enough to reveal her personal dilemma. Joyce revealed that the dilemma that had motivated her to attend the seminar involved Thomas. Joyce revealed that a compelling crisis was looming over her life and the lives of her children.

Joyce was facing a crisis about Thomas's access to education, and the outcome of the situation would effect her ability to work and provide for her family. What Joyce described in the discussion that unfolded was a scenario that will come as no surprise to those close to families who have a child with a disability throughout the Americas. Thomas's special needs, and particularly his physical disability left him unable to walk. His situation was compounded by the fact that Thomas did not have a wheelchair. He was able to move about on his own by crawling, or when conditions made it possible, by using a wooden platform mounted on wheels. The rest of the time Joyce had to carry him.

Joyce said she lived right across the street from a regular public school in the city. At the time, Thomas was near the end of his year in kindergarten in this neighborhood school. Joyce said she had asked the school principal if he could attend and since a kindergarten teacher had agreed to have him in her class, permission was given. This arrangement allowed Thomas to be taken to school by his grandmother who lived with Joyce and her two children. With grandmother able to get Thomas to school and also provide child-care for Willa, Joyce was able to have a full time job. This job required Joyce to leave home early in the morning to travel to the work site across the city. Things were working out well! But she had just learned that her good fortune was about to end.

Joyce was very worried about the news she had just received from the school authorities. The principal had advised her that Thomas would not be able to attend the school the following year. It turned out there were two problems. First, the classrooms for Grade 1 students were on the second floor and there was no way to transport Thomas. His physical disability made accessibility a barrier. But, there was another problem that was only revealed when Joyce pressed the issue with the school principal. She was finally told that none of the first grade teachers were willing to have Thomas in their class. The school principal seemed helpless and said he could do nothing about this. Joyce met with an official from the ministry of education but no help with the accessibility issue or the teacher acceptance issue was offered.

In fact the only alternative the official offered Joyce was to enroll Thomas in a special education school on the outskirts of the city. Since no transportation to the school was provided, the only way for Thomas to get there was for Joyce to accompany him on a public bus for the one hour journey each way. And this is where Joyce faced a crisis, one many parents and families in the region face.

If Joyce took Thomas to school by public bus in the morning, she would be unable to get to her job on time. And not only that, to get him home in the afternoon, she would have to be at the school at 2:30 p.m. to again accompany him on the bus. What Joyce revealed to her colleagues at the seminar was the tough, bitter choice she had to make. Joyce had to leave her son at home without an education, or she had to quit her job and try to transport him across the city to a special school for students with disabilities. Economically, there was no choice. Joyce needed to work so Thomas's education was about to be brought to a halt after just one year.

The seminar participants were glum, and several from social advocacy groups and the media were stunned. They asked how this could be happening in the 1990's, particularly after the undertakings made by government during the United Nation's "Decade of Disabled Persons". .A discussion followed on some of the strategies that might be used to impact the situation and work out a solution. The discussion eventually wound down with no firm plan but with several individuals agreeing to help Joyce if they could.

Joyce's story is real and it provides practical illustration to the reason inclusive education in the community public school is an alternative many have advocated for students with disabilities. It highlights some of the obstacles that need to be overcome. But it also shows the opportunity that exists in every community for change and improvement that will make schooling less of an issue for parents like Joyce..

It happened that a journalist, an individual well known in the nation for highlighting the inequities of human rights issues, had been invited to sit in on the seminar. He attended the Sunday morning session and was shocked at the situation Joyce found herself in. He used her story as the lead in his story published a few days later. For Joyce and Thomas this turned out to be a most helpful coincidence. The publicity provided motivation that Joyce could not ignite on her own. Officials were instructed to help resolve the problem forthwith - and they did. Thomas was assured of placement in a class in the neighborhood school for the coming year and Joyce's fears about his education and her family's livelihood were resolved.

It remains a fact, however, that the issues were resolved for Joyce and Thomas, and for them alone. It was also a one-year solution since there was no assurance that the matter would not come up again. Thomas's educational future, and the educational future of children like him, was left very much at risk in the absence of more substantial political resolve, as well as policy development and institutional change.

2.3 Deficiencies Revealed
This case example illustrates many of the areas of difficulty that arise when access to the neighborhood public school is not assured. These deficiencies can be linked to several areas of potential difficulty, among them:
  • inadequate policy and legislative provision;
  • limited coordination of social and economic agencies with schools;
  • inadequate administrative provisions to assure proactive leadership;
  • limited accessibility and provision for physical support;
  • inadequate school and classroom practices to support diverse learners;
  • inadequate training and re-training of teachers;
  • inadequate funding for basic education and for support services for students with special needs;
These deficiencies need to be described and alternatives suggested from the growing experience with inclusive practice found in both developed countries and the Latin American and Caribbean region.

2.3.1 Inadequate policy and legislative provision
The policy and legislative provisions for special needs education should be solidly anchored in the commitments made to "Education For All" (EFA) and equity in opportunity for every child. It is clear countries in Latin America and the Caribbean face serious challenges achieving the desired goals of the EFA initiative. No matter how difficult the challenges may be, the goals should include guarantees for students with special needs, including those with disabilities. In fact, the time could not be better for governments to seize on the EFA initiative to transform not just educational promise, but educational practice and outcomes.

In country after country, the story is substantially the same. Education is not well supported and is producing inadequate results. Educational reform and restructuring is on the public agenda, but funding and progress are limited. While change in special education is discussed among the small group of parents and practitioners in the field, it is largely ignored and rarely seen as part of the larger agenda of reform. Progress requires that this be corrected, and suggestions for what is needed are both simple and direct.

The public school mandate should require the education of all children, irrespective of their degree of diversity in learning needs, as well as physical or intellectual characteristics. The political and policy commitments should be seen as clear and consistent. Teachers and school principals must not be allowed to establish educational policy that is the proper domain of legislators and ministers. The fact that they are allowed to do so under the guise of professional competence and knowledge, as noted in Thomas's case, is a sad commentary on the depth of understanding of this issue.

2.3.2 Limited coordination of social and economic agencies with schools
The devastating effect on the total family unit is a factor that must be considered when agencies look at situations like the one Joyce found herself in. The cost in neglect and undeveloped potential for the child is the immediate effect of the denial of access to schooling. The economic and social results for the parent, other siblings and family members are equally relevant. The social and political interests of the community demand that political leaders and public officials create an environment where common sense and fairness prevail. Health agencies, social services departments and educational institutions should be structured and mandates to assure the holistic needs and interests of the child, the family and indeed the community are met. The cost of putting a mother out of work, and a family in an economic crisis, all for want of a receptive and effective school, is a price paid, not just by Joyce and her family, but over and over by many families in the region. The construction of a community able to support families flexibly and responsively requires coordinated action, guided by clear principles of empowerment.

2.3.3 Inadequate administrative provisions to assure proactive leadership
Legislative and policy provisions are important for the development of inclusive schools and supportive communities. The general principles must be backed up by operational strategies, however, that get the key officials and leaders in the bureaucracy to not only understand and comply with the policy but put their full skill and commitment behind implementing the policy. It is not unusual to see the promise of the most basic government policies remain unfulfilled because of bureaucratic opposition or inertia. If any area demands accountability, it is the education system that shapes our future as it shapes our children.

The ministry of education should ensure that leaders in the system are fully knowledgeable of the rational for inclusive community schools and the social and educational benefits that will result from them. They must also be trained in the skills needed to make schools work well. Skrtic has suggested this leadership needs to be focused on "adhocratic" processes of problem identification and problem solving. He argues schools are institutions where the work is always unique. Thus the teacher needs to create new and unique strategies to meet the needs of the diverse student population attending the school on ongoing basis (Skrtic, 1991).

2.3.4 Limited accessibility and provision for physical support
To accommodate diverse student needs the educational system must have the benefit of funds to support accessibility. Buildings must be made accessible for those in wheelchairs, and it must be recognized that building ramps, accessible washrooms, wide doorways and so on is just the beginning. The provision of personal support from an assistant also needs to be available if the school is to be able to accommodate students with multiple and severe disabilities. Most schools are not equipped or staffed to meet these needs and achieving the goals of EFA, and thus of "inclusion," will be difficult until they are met.

2.3.5 Inadequate school and classroom practices to support diverse learners
The challenge for school leaders seeking to successfully manage change, is to create conditions where what is known about "best practices", can be put to work to benefit children. Pedagogical knowledge, and information on what practices make a school work well, are readily at hand.
  1. (A) Critical Factors for success For schools to achieve a high degree of success with all children, the first requirement is that the day-to-day expectations of the teacher have to be reasonable. Several critical factors have been identified that effect the probability of the teacher achieving successful outcomes with students. In a paper entitled, "Investments to Improve Children's Educational Outcomes in Latin America," presented at the Year 2000 Conference on Early Childhood Development sponsored by the World Bank and held in Washington in April 2000, J. Douglas Willms reported on several factors relevant to quality schooling and inclusive practice. This data was based on the results of the Primer Estudio Internacional Comparativo (PEIC), the first international study in Latin America that was built on the same tests and questionnaires(UNESCO, 1998). The 13 countries involved were Argentina, Bolivia, Brazil, Columbia, Costa Rica, Cuba, Chile, Honduras, Mexico, Paraguay, Peru, Dominican Republic, and Venezuela. While English Caribbean countries were not represented, and other countries did not participate, the results are based on a sample large enough to fairly represent the region as a whole for purposes of analysis:
    • Class Size: Enrollments of 25 students or more were considered too large. It is reported that 54.2 per cent of all children in the region were enrolled in classes of 25 students or less. The other 45.8 per cent were in classes larger than 25. Comment: It is not uncommon to find classes ranging in size from 40 to 50 students throughout the region. This is clearly too many children for one teacher to handle. Even an excellent teacher would struggle to adequately provide for all. Class size needs to be reduced and the teaching loads of instructors made more realistic.
    • Teachers Working One Job: An acceptable standard was found to be that teachers work one job. The finding was that 52.5 per cent of students were attending schools where this was the case. The other 47.5 per cent attended schools where their teachers had more than one job. Comment: The effect of low pay and schools operating two sessions of classes each day is that a significant number of teachers work at two jobs. In some cases, both jobs are teaching, but for many the second might be outside the education sector. In either case, the consequence is detrimental to student success, since time for the teacher to prepare and plan lessons is reduced. The teacher is also unable to take part in meetings with colleagues directed toward instructional improvement and school enhancement. Opportunities for teachers to meet and work with parents is also reduced.
    • No Ability Grouping: The standard set was that schools not group students by ability, but instead have them grouped heterogeneously consistent with an inclusive approach. Only 38.7 per cent of all the children in the region were in schools that did not practice ability grouping. The other 61.3 per cent of the children attended schools that did practice ability grouping. Comment: Willms has clearly established that heterogeneity tends to produce higher levels of achievement for students as a whole. Inclusive education practice goes hand-in-hand with achieving high levels of heterogeneity.
    • Positive Learning Environment: An index of the learning climate in school was created and used to establish a general assessment of this factor from the perspective of students. It was found that 51.3 per cent of students in the region were in such schools, while 48.7 per cent were not. Comment: School climate is an important indicator of the sense of community and commitment to mutual benefit by a class of students. The teacher plays an important role in establishing expectations and modeling appropriate standards. Inclusion of students with special needs, particularly students who have been excluded from school or isolated in segregated programs, requires a high emphasis on achieving a positive school and classroom climate.
    • Strong Parental Involvement: The parental involvement index was derived from questions asked of parents. It was determined that 53.8 per cent of children in the region were enrolled in schools where strong parent involvement was found. The other 46.2 per cent were in schools that did not have strong parent involvement. Comment: Achieving successful inclusion with students with special needs is closely tied to teachers and parents working together. A general climate where a parent-teacher partnership is in play makes the transition to inclusive practice much more positive.
  2. (B) Other Pedagogical Factors In addition to the elements identified above, there is a range of other factors that have emerged as critical in the many schools and classrooms where inclusive education has been successfully implemented. Some of the most common are described below:
    • School Support Strategies: Teachers working in inclusive classrooms face many challenges on a daily basis. They require support in a number of ways. Blanco and Duk (1995) point out there is increasing effort in the region to "integrate the special subsystem of education into the regular system." There is a purposeful steering of special education resources into regular schools to support greater degrees of inclusion for students with special needs. Indeed, if inclusion is to be successful, educational managers need to assure that there are varied and systematic supports available to the teacher,.
    • The Support Teacher: One of the most promising approaches in supporting classroom teachers with inclusion is to provide support from a collaborating teacher. In many cases, this teacher is a former special education teacher given a new mandate and role. Instead of providing direct service to students, the support teacher places emphasis on providing professional assistance in planning and teaching strategies to the classroom teacher. This assistance may be focused on meeting the unique learning needs of the students or on developing classroom strategies and activities for day-to-day use. Support teachers also , assist in working with parents, and they may deal with outside agencies involved with the child. They help the teacher with all the other complications associated with providing high quality instruction to special needs students in a regular class (Porter, 1991).
    Yet, the collaboration must go beyond teacher and support teacher. Blanco (1997) has described the need to establish . . . " a collaborative working scheme among teachers, teachers and specialists, teachers and parents and among the students themselves."

    The support teacher can also facilitate more structured sharing among teachers who work in the same school. One means of achieving this involves "teachers helping teachers" through problem solving teams that focus on practical and site specific strategies. Support teachers can be trained to facilitate the meetings and teachers learn how to act cooperatively to help each other improve their teaching practices (Porter, 1994).

    It is also important the school principal or director be involved in the collaborative process of planning and review (Perner, 1991). Modeling effective teamwork in the "adhocratic" manner suggested by Skrtic can help teachers feel comfortable within this new approach.
    • The Classroom Assistant: Many children with special needs have physical, behavioral and, in some cases, learning needs that can be effectively met by the one-on-one assistance of a classroom assistant. The assistant can be a paid staff member with some degree of special training or, in some circumstances, may be a parent or a volunteer contributing their time to help students achieve success. Whatever the status, a second or perhaps even a third adult in the classroom can be a significant help for the teacher. Schools have institutionalized the model of one teacher for each class, but there is nothing sacrosanct about this approach. If an additional adult is needed, the means to make one available needs to be identified. This approach adds considerably to the flexibility that the school needs to adapt supports to meet the needs of various students. Successful school programs provide this flexibility, perhaps in different ways, but the availability of support for the teacher is assured (Porter & Stone, 1998).
    • New Ways of Teaching: Another essential element to accommodate students with diverse needs in regular classes is for teachers to utilize a variety of innovative and flexible teaching strategies. Multi-level instruction is one formulation developed to meet this requirement (Collicott, 1991) Multi-level instruction has been defined as follows (Perner & Porter, 1998):
    An approach to classroom instruction and curriculum organization that emphasizes provision of appropriate learning opportunities for students with varying levels of academic skills through the same "core lesson." This approach suggests consideration by teachers of the (a) underlying concept of the lesson, (b) method of presentation by the teacher, (c) method of practice by the student, and (d) method of evaluation.

    The model requires the teacher to consider a number of alternatives in terms of teacher presentation and student practice. Among the choices typically identified are:
    • modes of activities (Wood, 1992);
    • the type of questions asked and the thinking skills required of students (for example utilizing Bloom's cognitive levels (e.g. knowledge, comprehension, application, analysis, synthesis, evaluation) which sets out levels of the cognitive domain (Bloom, 1969);
    • student learning styles (e.g. visual, auditory and/or tactile);
    • degree of participation (e.g. full or partial);
    • reference to the theory of multiple intelligences (Gardner, 1983), which encourages reference to student skill in seven identifiable types of intelligence, should be utilized and nurtured in the classroom (e.g. logical/mathematical; verbal/linguistic; visual/spatial; bodily/kinesthetic; musical/rhythmical; interpersonal, and intrapersonal).
    Multi-level instruction and similar models of pedagogy are required to open the class to varied and flexible activities to stimulate student learning. Students are thus allowed some choice in how they demonstrate their learning and practice new skills. This approach has proved to be a useful way to support teachers in developing new instructional strategies (Perner, 1993).
    • Flexible Curriculum: The rigidity of school curriculum is a major concern when it comes to serving students with special needs in schools throughout the region. In some cases, curriculum rigidity followed by grade retention is a prime cause of drop outs among populations of students from low socio-economic groups, minority groups and others at-risk. Over emphasis on high academic standards and achievement lead to ". . . high drop-out (rates) and grade retention, low attendance rates, and poor learning achievement in many Latin American countries (Artilles et al, 1995)." Inflexible curriculum, combined with poor quality of education, ". . . requires an investment solely to keep repeaters in the system, an expense that in turn is not invested in dealing with learning difficulties (Palacios, 1999)."
    While curriculum outcomes and goals are needed to shape expectations for most students, a responsive school program must also be capable of making reasonable accommodations for students who require them. The receptiveness of school personnel, and for that matter the public and parents, for this flexibility needs to be strengthened. Blanco and Duk observed that, ". . . open and flexible curricula are a must if the various needs of students are to be met and the different social and educational settings wherein the teaching learning process takes place, are to be taken into account ( Blanco & Duk, 1995)." They further note that schools should move ". . . toward the elimination of the differentiated curriculum and the creation of a single curriculum for the whole student population flexible enough to allow for the necessary adjustments and . . . (to) . . . respond to the students' differences (Blanco & Duk, 1995)."

    The multi-level teaching approach is designed to achieve exactly this result, and together with other instructional strategies, such as cooperative learning and activity-based learning, give teachers several tools to accomplish their goals (Porter & Stone, 1998). Flexible curriculum can also assist schools in reducing the high proportion of students in the region who are forced to repeat grades.

2.3.6 Inadequate training and re-training of teachers
Teachers need thorough pre-service training and on-going in-service training opportunities to make inclusive education a success (Perner & Porter, 1998). Teaching is a profession of ever changing demands and the need to develop new skills and approaches to use with students is considered essential. In much of the region, teachers are not adequately trained. In some countries primary level teachers require little, if any, training beyond secondary school. Willms reports that only 54.8 per cent of students in the region were considered to have well-trained teachers (Willms, 2000).

Blanco has identified the key weakness of training initiatives in the region as the focus on individual teachers in discreet areas without attention to school-wide initiatives that involve every teacher.
". . . (E)very country is allocating considerable material and human resources to the formation of teachers capable of responding to the different challenges posed by the various educational reforms underway. Regrettably, the results so far obtained are not encouraging, since formation has not translated into significant modification of teaching practices. . . . Teachers trained in isolation, fail to produce significant transformations in the school culture (Blanco, 1999)."
In a study of inclusive education programs in member countries, the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD), found that ". . . the training of all those involved was a key to success (OECD, 1999). Among the skills identified as essential were adapting curriculum, using a variety of instructional strategies, identifying individual needs, skill in collaboration and problem solving, the development of individual educational plans and monitoring student progress.

2.37 Inadequate funding of basic education and support services for students with special needs Sufficient funding for full basic education is not ensured in many countries in the region. While commitments have been made to correct funding deficiencies and inequities, concrete results are not yet evident. The inequity in funding supports for students with special educational needs is even more glaring than for general education. Significant portions of the student population are simply not considered a part of the population eligible for schooling (e.g. the case from Argentina). Thus, the question of what can be done must be asked.

The basic principles of effective financing are quite simple, although recognizably more difficult to implement. Critical elements of an effective financing policy include the following (Porter, 1995):
  1. 3. Provide sufficient funding to schools for quality basic education.
  2. 4. Establish class-size guidelines that are realistic, with a target not in excess of 25 to 40 students per class.
  3. 6. Pay teachers enough to demand one full day of professional work, including time for planning, meetings and personal improvement.
  4. 7. Recognize the additional cost of providing for a diverse group of students in regular classes and in regular schools and provide funding to meet this need through: 4.1 Salaries for professional support teachers; 4.2 Funds for assistants to the teachers; 4.3 Funds for modifications to facilities, as required; 4.4 Funds for individual supports that may be required by specific students. 5. Provide funding for staff training and public education.
While there are many considerations and complications required to effectively execute such a plan, constructive action to achieve these goals would be a step in the right direction.

3. Nurturing the Inclusive Model
"Basic education for all requires assuring access, permanence, quality learning, and full participation and integration of all children and adolescents, particularly for members of indigenous groups, those with disabilities, those that are homeless, those that are workers, those living with HIV/AIDS, and others." ( EFA, 2000)
3.1 The Inclusive Perspective
There is now a consensus that inclusive education is an alternative to the whimsical effort to develop segregated special education programs throughout the region. The statement above from the regional meeting in Santo Domingo held to finalize the action plan for nations in the Americas was presented at the World Forum on Education for All in Dakar, Senegal in April 2000. This represents a clear affirmation of the inclusion principle and a vision statement that will challenge the current status quo of segregation and neglect.

According to this new model, children should be educated in the educational centers of his or her town or village, whether or not he or she has a disability or is different in any way. Schools that have implemented this model have made important progress. Nevertheless, as is usually the case with innovative initiatives, the prospect of implementing the inclusive education model generates fear and resistance, mainly from teachers who are fearful the training and support they will need will not materialize. Many regular teachers doubt the practicality of the strategy and resist the idea of having children with special needs in their classrooms. They genuinely feel that they are not prepared for this challenge and they fear that the implementation of this model will mean a great deal of extra work for them.

Many special educators are also fearful of inclusion. They are concerned that managers may see inclusion as a means to eliminate their jobs and save money. Others wonder if they have the knowledge and skill needed to assist regular class teachers with inclusion.

Obviously each country has its own conditions and characteristics, therefore there are no recipes for the development of a unique and inclusive education model. But when disseminated and known, good practices, like those discussed above, can always be adapted in order to enrich similar processes that take place in other parts of the world. Each and every country has taken positive steps in this direction. It is important to disseminate and multiply such steps.

3.2 Case example: Jamaica
In Jamaica, the Ministry of Education and an NGO, The Jamaica Association for Persons with Mental Retardation (JAPMR), are cooperating to address the educational needs of a group of children who have not been achieving success in school.

Since 1996, the Primary Intervention Program (PIP) has been assisting schools and teachers with children who have been designated as slow learners or children with mild mental handicaps. They are not eligible for the special education programs in the School(s) of Hope, operated throughout the country, and they are not doing well in the regular classrooms in the regular in which they are placed. They have traditionally been enrolled in school, but over time, as learning problems develop and frustrations rise, many of these children have dropped out of school -- in many instances to the relief of the teacher. Teachers have had no assistance in dealing with the needs of these children and without intervention, the outcome for many of them is predictable from the beginning. In fact, the idea for the PIP was generated as a consequence of JAPMR staff being "inundated by requests from principals of regular schools for assistance to deal with children who were not coping (Duncan, 2001)."

The Pilot
The PIP effort started with staff from the educational programs operated by JAPMR providing direct assistance to Grade 1 students in two regular schools. In the first year, they assessed the learning needs of 144 students in Grade 1. They found that just 50 of the 144 children met the readiness criteria jointly established by the ministry and the agency. The other 94 children were deemed to be at a level of risk. A group of 25 students, those considered the most at-risk, were individually assessed by agency staff.

The PIP Process
The process led the teachers to be much more aware of the diverse learning needs of the students entering Grade 1. The agency staff noted that classroom teachers wanted these children removed from the classroom. They felt they were unable to teach them. Over time, however, the program led to agency staff providing training for the teachers, providing materials, as well as sharing strategies for meeting the needs of these students. The program was built on the underlying principle that all children can learn and that "teaching styles must be matched with learning styles.'' The key objective of the program is to "allow the students to stay in their community schools and yet achieve their fullest potential." Workshops were also held to educate teachers on how to identify a child's special needs and how to work with the student even when resources are limited.

The Results
During the pilot, many of the children missed many days of school. Nonetheless, post-testing showed that all of the students made gains, and 52 of the 94 attained a mastery level. The exam results at the end of the year were even better. Both teachers and parents were pleased. At the end of the pilot project, the classroom teachers ". . . realized that these children could be taught."

What Was Learned
The PIP pilot experience indicated there was a need to:
  • revisit the primary school curriculum and ensure the first term be dedicated to student differences and providing experience in school readiness skills;
  • acknowledge that children with mild disabilities can achieve in the regular school system.
Continuing Action
The agency, JAPMR, continues to practice and support the principles of inclusion. They have recently started to refer children in the 12- to 15-year age group from the School of Hope to regular community schools, so they can continue to further their training and development. They report that ". . . (the) . . . demand is overwhelming, and the greater part of our involvement is a result of requests from regular schools that continue to struggle with these children for whom very limited provisions are being made." The pilot project was considered successful and the number of schools in the program was increased from two schools to four. Many more would welcome a place in the project, but current resources have limited participation.

Partners & The Challenge
Children with disabilities are at even greater risk as limited national resources reflect the inability of the government to address this group even in the regular schools. The need to provide education for children with special needs, including children with disabilities, is recognized and continues to receive national attention.
"The Association will continue to lend its support to the government program in providing inclusive education for children who are at risk, and in particular those children with a condition of Mental Retardation and other Developmental Disabilities (Duncan, 2001)."
Many students are benefiting from the joint inclusive education efforts of the association and the ministry working in partnership.

3.3 Case example: Brazil
Inclusive Education Project:
APAE Sao Paulo's Role in Creating Inclusive Schools Context

APAE Sao Paulo (APAE SP) is a large and mature NGO with a proud history of accomplishment recognized both within Brazil and internationally. The inclusive education project is a bold and progressive initiative consistent with the needs of children with intellectual disabilities and their families. This is an important project, not only for APAE SP, but also for all of Brazil, and Latin America.

APAE SP has operated a school for students with intellectual disabilities for many years. Recently, the student population has reached 600 children. Educational leaders have long recognized that many more children should be served. They also recognized that APAE SP does not have the capacity or the resources to support each child who needs service and the prospect of doing so in the future appears dim.

Sao Paulo is a large city with thousands of schools. Some of these schools are run by the municipality, some by the state, while others are private. Leaders of APAE SP concluded that for most children with intellectual disabilities, their only chance to receive an education is if it is offered in the local public school. This is true for many children with other special needs as well, whether they be social, cultural or as in too many cases, economic.

The Plan
In 1999, APAE SP initiated a project to include students with intellectual disabilities in regular schools throughout the City of Sao Paulo. Approximately 100 children were enrolled in 32 regular schools, both public and private, throughout the city. APAE SP provided staff support and leadership to this process, and as a consequence, created an important project that has the potential to shape the direction to be taken in providing educational services to children with intellectual disabilities in the next decade and beyond. The project was extended to more students and more schools in the year 2000.

The vision and leadership for this project has been provided by several of the founders of the agency, Dr. Antonio Clemente Fillho and Maria Amelia Vampre, as well as several other directors and the senior staff of APAE SP. The educational staff accepted the mandate to promote inclusion, but were more fearful and uncertain of the prospect for success. Several questioned the ability of regular schools to succeed with their students. A clear vision of the benefit for the child, and actions supporting successful implementation, were required to create a context for successful inclusion where none had existed before this time.

The Project Staff
The professional staff involved in the project are good teachers, with experience working in the segregated classes of APAE SP. Nearly a dozen teachers were selected to act as resource and support staff to the project. They are knowledgeable in special education practices and have shown a real commitment to their task. While many have limited experience in ordinary schools, they bring a different perspective to the work in regular schools. They are also learning the skills of collaboration and teamwork with regular teachers.

The teachers in the regular schools all agreed to participate in the project. They have all sought to serve the children well and to work cooperatively with the support teachers from APAE SP. They welcomed the extra assistance and training provided. Their main concern is that the support needs to be more intensive in frequency and that there be time for joint planning with the support teacher and the child's parents. School directors have also played an important role in the process. It is clear that the most successful experiences have been where the involvement and participation of the school director has been high.

Support Strategies
One of the key elements of the APAE SP project is the delivery of support to teachers in the cooperating schools. It was recognized from the start that simply sending the children to the regular schools with no support was not an appropriate action. In the transition to inclusion, the project directors anticipated that regular classroom teachers would require help with the knowledge and skills needed to make the initiative a success.

The teachers also have needed collaborative assistance from a support teacher with knowledge and skill in special education, and who is able to assist with new instructional strategies that will work in inclusive classrooms. Teachers have also needed help in solving the problems and difficulties that have predictably occurred, including behavioral, curricular, instructional and social problems.

This support has also taken several other forms, including training in the essential principles of inclusive education. It has also involved providing planning time for teachers to work with parents so together they can design appropriate individual educational plans that will work well in an inclusive setting. While effort has been made in this area, more needs to be done.

The teachers have been provided with training opportunities, but not enough. All agree they could use more training and more time for developing strategies to enhance their work with regular teachers. In this respect, it is noteworthy to point out that practical and hands-on training was limited. Theory and ideology were well covered. Practical strategies and concrete methodology were not given sufficient attention.

Parents play a critical role in building support for inclusive education. The APAE SP inclusion project has started to give parents the opportunity to develop a deep and abiding belief in the potential of their son/daughter. They have been able to move individually and collectively toward a vision that recognizes the benefits their children will gain from an inclusionary school program. APAE SP and the project staff are working to develop more thorough partnerships with parents in this context. The parents are learning to speak to the vision for their child's future and the child's needs that must be addressed to achieve future goals. Parents are increasingly comfortable exploring the dreams, and the fears, they have for their child. They are being encouraged to ask questions and collaborate with other parents in the same situation. In short they are being empowered to play a key and vital role in the project. As parents have gained confidence, they speak more specifically about their child's needs and the professionals are able to take a more supportive role where they can enhance the parents insights and suggestions. The project continues to emphasize the need for increased parental involvement and participation in the inclusion process.

Ministry Partnerships
The municipal government of Sao Paulo has been a supportive sponsor of the initiative, since primary education is its mandate. It has provided extra teaching positions to APAE SP to carry out the initiative. There is agreement, however, that the task given to the support teachers is very ambitious and involves too large a caseload and too many schools. They are doing the best they can, but more positions, or fewer schools, will be required to give the frequency of support desired by classroom teachers and school administrators. In addition to cooperation with the municipal department of education, APAE SP has sought the support of the federal ministry of education. This is especially true with regard to the provision of support teachers and providing the training component for teachers, along with the development and distribution of materials to assist teachers with their work.

The present initiative can be judged successful if it achieves the objective of identifying and supporting a cluster of schools, public and private, to successfully include students with special needs, especially those with intellectual disabilities. The practices these schools develop can be identified and shared as "best practices" or exemplars, by parents and APAE SP itself, in the long-term goal of making every school inclusionary. The project serves its most useful purpose by providing support for this advocacy role that is at the heart of the mission of parent groups such as APAE SP.

With the success of the project, public officials responsible for education are being asked to build on these examples and thus fulfill their responsibility to provide an education for every child, including those with special needs. As a consequence, this project for a few children in Sao Paulo has the potential to make a real difference for thousands of students.

APAE SP has committed itself to make this inclusive education project a success. The project will only succeed, however, if other crucial partners give it support and build on the initiative.

3.4 Inclusion Outcomes
If implemented properly, inclusive education services can:
  • be less expensive to implement and operate than special education services;
  • have a broader reach than traditional special education in terms of positive educational and social impacts on children;
  • contribute significantly to the ongoing professional development and job satisfaction of educators;
  • produce better morale and team effort in the school environment.
One of the challenges facing countries that have highly developed special education systems in place is the need to re-direct funds from traditional special education services, and reinvest those funds in regular schools. Difficulties inherent in this process are major deterrents to wider implementation of inclusive education.

These difficulties, however, should not be overstated. With determined leadership, this transition process can be effectively managed. But, it does take time and it does require investment for this purpose. In countries with relatively little spending on special education, the challenge is to generate new money to establish support programs for schools to move toward inclusion.

3.5 Strategies to Develop Inclusive Education
Too often the proposals for inclusive education initiatives result in debate and discussion among those in the special education and disability fields. In this setting, there are many disagreements and a high degree of heated rhetoric on all sides. The fact is the discussion is largely wasted in this context. Inclusive education is a topic for those engaged in the general education system. It is among regular school principals and teachers that the discussions need to occur. One of the mandates of the EFA programs in the region is to achieve for acceptance of diversity. Schools must be challenged and empowered to meet the educational needs of the children in their communities just as the families of these children are challenged to provide the best possible family life. Schools need to focus on the fact that just as the family has obligations to each child, the school community has an obligation to each family and thus every child.

In many cases special educators with a vision for inclusion are found at the forefront of the struggle for inclusive schools. For these special educators developing inclusive options for children is seen as pursuing "best practices" for their students.

Officials and political leaders are always looking for the most effective programs that produce the best results and that make the most beneficial use of the limited funding available. In some countries this is a key motivator for reform related to special education. Spending on segregated special education is clearly inadequate to meet the needs of students with special needs in the region. Increasing this spending by three or four times, and in some cases up to 10 times the current level of spending, would still not meet all of the need. And, it is ironic that making these extra investments would merely reinforce the idea the general education system does not have to deal with children who are different. This would logically result in even more children being rejected from regular schools. For example in The Netherlands, special education provision eventually reached the point where fourteen types of special schools provided segregated education to students judged to have special needs before the reform process was initiated (Meijer, 1994).

Countries in the region have very little extra money available to spend on education. Regular schools and the general education program needs whatever additional investment can be made in them. By mandating an inclusive general education program, money can be focused almost entirely on improving the capacity of the program to serve all the children - typical children and their peers with special needs. The added policy benefit is that the money now going to segregated special education, as well as the increases likely to be added over time, can be added to the pool of resources available to raise the standards of practice in regular classrooms in community schools. In this way, the social benefits of the investment will be available to the population as a whole.

3.6 Partnerships with Parents
Parents are the most consistent advocates for their child's best interests. In many instances parent-based groups, some formal and national in scope, others small, informal and highly specific in their goals, are making a significant difference in the movement toward inclusive educational programs.

In an analysis of developments in the region, Blanco (1997) has noted the importance of partnerships in building the conditions for progress.
"The formulation of policies designed to help disabled individuals requires a global, integrative and participative approach that involves various institutions. The Intersectoral Plans developed must involve the different Ministries, and must rely on the participation of Parents Associations and Organizations for the Assistance of the Disabled." - (Blanco, 1997)
4. Disability and Inclusive Education: The Future

The attention being given to inclusive education as a strategy for school reform and improvement, as well as the assurance of participation and equity for students with special needs is ever increasing. There is little evidence that this is a fad. Indeed it is increasingly evident that the vision of an inclusive and welcoming community school, that is effective and nurturing is one that few stakeholders can resist.

4.1 Where We Are Today

Most countries in the region have committed themselves to the goals of equity and inclusion through international agreements and the EFA process. Turning these commitments into reality is a more difficult task. It seems that the opportunity for progress depends on policy-makers who view the inclusive community school as a crucial element of the general effort toward educational reform and restructuring, rather than as issue of practice in the field of special education. There are signs that this is happening throughout the region.

In October 2000, the Council of Ministers of Education of the states of Central America met in Antigua, Guatemala. They invited a delegation from Inclusion InterAmericana to meet with them and discuss opportunities to use inclusive education as a mechanism for reform and improvement. The meeting was made possible by the initiative of the minister of education from El Salvador, a country that had welcomed a partnership with Inclusion InterAmericana to reform its special education practice. The host ministry of education in Guatemala also had strong ties to the NGO and parent sector.

The discussions between the ministers and members of Inclusion InterAmericana focused on the need for greater provision, as well as the need to maximize the effect of limited resources. It was agreed that for most students with disabilities in the Central American region, assuring access to the local public school was the only reasonable way to assure access to any educational experience. The ministers agreed to an on-going process to develop examples of inclusive schools, and to build on the practices and innovations found to be successful. The council of ministers and Inclusion InterAmericana are currently working on a plan to provide teacher training and in-service and production of informational materials to assist teachers and parents in this area (Inclusion InterAmericana, 2000).

Another positive initiative has been taken by several rectors of pedagogical universities in Central America. With leadership from a university rector in Honduras, they have agreed there is a need to prepare teachers for the diversity that schools will accommodate in the future. They have begun discussions on a plan of action with Inclusion InterAmericana and the Roeher Institute of Canada. This initiative and others hold promise for progress in teacher preparation for inclusive schooling (Roeher, 1999).

We can expect the movement toward inclusive educational practices to continue. Some initiatives will no doubt be modest in scope and be limited to creating a new option for the provision of special education. Others may be more ambitious and include the goal of inclusive schools a component in the actions to modernization and reform public education. Stakeholders can work together so that the commitment and capacity to serve all children can be nurtured and supported in every school in every community..

4.2 Agenda for Action
There are a number of areas for constructive action to promote the development of inclusive education in the Latin America and Caribbean region. Some actions primarily require policy development and leadership and can be initiated without significant financial commitments. Other options will require more systemic action and will require considerable investment if both human and material resources. The fact that positive effects can be made to general education, and improvements can be directed to regular schools through investment in inclusive practices, adds to the argument that such action be taken.

Some of the actions that should be considered by stakeholders, including ministries of education, NGOs, donor agencies and donor countries, include the following: Invest in pilot projects to support individual schools or clusters of schools that commit to serve all the children in their natural area or catchment zone, and to implement inclusive practices and strategies to assure a high level of success for every child.
  1. Support the changes needed in teacher education programs, so classroom teachers are prepared to accommodate diverse student needs in regular education classes. They will need knowledge about children with special needs, including disabilities, but they will also need significant practical training in pedagogical practices and innovative instructional strategies (e.g. the initiative of rectors in Central America).
  2. Develop a cadre of informed and skilled educational leaders, school managers, school principals and directors, who can take the day-to-day actions needed to transform school practices. Provide these individuals with training and planning time and provide them with the tools to make the community public school truly a school for all.
  3. Funding for research and development in the area of special needs education in inclusive settings is urgently needed in the region. Successful models need to be analyzed and described. The practices that lead to success for students and teachers need to be gathered in pamphlets, books, manuals, videos and other formats for dissemination of knowledge to teachers, parents and other stakeholders. Funding to research centers, university projects and academic institutes will be needed for this purpose.
  4. An Internet-based information system is needed to assure widespread access to information and resources at little cost. The support for a regional initiative in this respect, with selected support sites, has great promise.
  5. Partnerships among national and international agencies dedicated to children with special needs need to be nurtured and strengthened. Disability rights groups, parent advocacy groups, social movements and faith based groups should be enabled to form common cause in this endeavor.
  6. Inclusive education initiatives need to be given priority in national "Education For All" efforts and other school improvement programs since they can result in gains for all students, children with disabilities and their non-disabled peers.
  7. Partnerships between government and community based action groups are highly productive and provide promise of assuring maximum benefits for the children who are not excluded and neglected by the education system. Community, national and regional partnerships are both desirable and achievable. They need to be nurtured where they now exist and created where they do not.
Finally, we need to remember that the purpose of education and for inclusion in education systems is to advance the cause of social justice and equity. It is the personal opportunities to achieve both knowledge and acceptance that makes a life in the community a reality. The quotation below by a mother whose child has finally been included in the community school fully illustrates this point. We need to achieve this goal for every child. It is both an opportunity and a duty.

For years I watched Mandy stand alone on the front lawn as all of the neighborhood children rushed by her. I remember thinking, "Please, just one person stop and talk with her, just one of you ask her to play too . . .!" [O]ne of the most important benefits of being included [in a regular class is] that Mandy now has friends. Her original group of three friends has now quadrupled in number. They are her classmates, the people who speak up and support her, her advocates at school and in the playgrounds at home. . . .It is her classmates who come to our home to call on her to come out to play, her friends who invite her to parties and dances, and the kids who are anxious to see her at Brownies, the Mall, gymnastics, on the playground, and at the beach. These are the kids who can't wait to introduce me to their parents as "Mandy's mom. Mandy, she's in our class!" --(Porter & Richler, 1991, p. 21)
I want to thank the following individuals for their assistance with this paper: Cameron Crawford; Grace Duncan; Mary MacDonagh; Maria del Carmen Malbran; Maria Amelia Vampre; Nadira Persaud; Roberto Madriz; and Diane Richler.

Gordon L. Porter: Gordon L. Porter is a Canadian educator active in promoting inclusive educational practices for the last twenty years. Educated at universities in New Brunswick, Maine and New York, he has been a teacher, school principal and school district director of special education. Dr. Porter has taught courses on inclusive practice at McGill University, the University of Calgary, and at the University of Maine at Presque Isle. He has written a number of articles and book chapters on inclusion and has lectured on inclusive education in countries around the world. Currently the President of Inclusion InterAmericana, he is a past president of the Canadian Association for Community Living. Among his varied activities he was been a Visiting Fellow at the New Zealand Institute on Mental Retardation, acted as a resource person to the Commission on Special Education in South Africa, and provided leadership training for inclusion teams for the Ministry of Education of Portugal. Gordon Porter was a keynote speaker at the Salamanca World Conference on Special Education and represented Inclusion International at the World Education Forum on EFA in Dakar, Senegal.

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